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Fri 8th Aug 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Enterprise Inns increasing capital expenditure on growth-oriented projects: Enterprise Inns chief executive Simon Townsend has told Propel that the company is increasing the proportion of its £65 to £70m current annual capital expenditure budget that it directs towards growth-oriented projects within the company’s 5,429-strong estate. Yesterday, the company reported its fourth consecutive quarter of like-for-like net income growth. Townsend said that 32% of the £65 to £70m budget was spent on growth-oriented schemes in its First Half which will increase to 40% in its Second Half. There were 15 investment schemes worth in excess of £100,000 and “lots” of investments between £50,000 and £100,000 in the First Half. Townsend said he hoped the percentage would move to 50% in the company’s next financial year. He said the increasing spend on growth, rather than maintenance spend, was a result of the company being “less reactionary and better able to plan and look forward”. The company completed more than 1,000 “kerb appeal” projects last year, ensuring every pub in the estate looked attractive for anyone passing by. Meanwhile, Townsend said that the results from the company’s first managed pub, the St James in Bermondsey, were “encouraging”. “We’re learning as we go. I think it will give us a number of benefits, including a better understanding of the levers affecting the Profit & Loss account.” Analyst Geof Collyer, of house broker Deutsche Bank, issuing a ‘Buy’ note, stated: “This was yet another result to add to the collection of small victories for a group now clearly on its way to complete rehabilitation. In the context of the group’s recent history, positive growth for four consecutive quarters should not be underestimated. For Enterprise to deliver flat like-for-like net income growth for (this financial year), the last eight weeks would have to fall by 7% – or to hit our +0.8% full year forecast, the last eight weeks would have to be down 2%. As July has been flat on last year – the toughest comparatives for many years – a positive outcome now seems to be an actuality rather than a probability. The shares are down -22% since the start of the year, against a flat UK market, and down -13% since the group reported its first positive quarter for seven years back in November 2013. There is 70% upside to our target price of 205p, which equates to either a 30% discount to Net Asset Value, or 10x FY’15E P/E – the average multiple that Enterprise has traded on since Initial Public Offering in November 1995.” (See below for Douglas Jack’s alternative view)

Industry News:

Propel adds places at Inaugural Operators and Investors Dinner: Propel Info has added places for the Inaugural Operators and Investors dinner, sponsored by ZEO, due to demand for seats. More than 50 of the UK’s outstanding small and medium-sized multi-site operators will attend the sector’s first ever dinner for leading emerging multi-site operators and the investment community. The event, which takes place on 9 September and is sponsored by ZEO, is a chance for up-and-coming multiple and medium-sized operators to network with leading private equity companies, venture capitalists, investment funds and major lenders. Among new sign-ups are Kornicics, Fever Bars, Banana Tree, Little Gems Country Dining, Everards, Kalton & Barlow, Mitchells of Lancaster and Misschu, the eight-strong Australian looking to break into the UK. Propel managing director Paul Charity: “The demand for places has been extraordinary – and we have added capacity to try an accommodate attendees.” Other operating companies attending include: Real Eating Company, Urban Pubs and Bars, Burning Night Group, ETM Group, Beds and Bars, Bulldog Hotel Group, Oakman Inns and Restaurants, Faucet Inn, Hache, Pug Pubs, Coal Bar and Grill, Ed’s Easy Diner, Meatailer, Cote, Barrio Bars, Pieminister, Yummy Pub Company, Flat Iron Steak, Strada, Cambcuisine, K10, Square Pie, Inglenook Inns and Taverns, Kurobuta, Anglian Country Inns, Innventure, Ignite Group, Harris + Hoole, TLC Inns, Friska, Velo Café, Oxfordshire Hotels, Chicago Leisure, Malvern Inns, Mountain Range Restaurants, TCG, Crussh, Oak Taverns, Palico, Castle Rock Brewery, LT Pub Management, All Our Bars, Barburrito and British Street Food. Senior executives from Punch Taverns, Enterprise Inns, Hawthorne Leisure and Spirit will also attend in an investor capacity as well as a large number of banks, private equity firms and other finance firms.

Nation’s Restaurant News – ‘fast fine’ niche emerging: Influential US foodservice magazine Nation’s Restaurant News has argued that a new market niche is being carved out by fast-casual brands such as Mendocino Farms, LYFE Kitchen, Noodles & Company, and 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria. The magazine stated: “As the $34.5 billion fast-casual segment evolves, some players are carving out a new niche within the space that pushes the boundary closer to casual and fine dining. These players tend to refer to their brands as “premium fast casual,” or “fast fine,” and they’re taking steps to further distance their concepts from what has traditionally been known as fast food.”

Technomic – UK restaurant operators looking to expand their reach: Darren Tristano, executive vice president of insights firm Technomic, has argued that UK restaurant operators are flexing their operating styles by occupying market niches both above an below their current market positions. Writing for Propel Friday Opinion, he stated: “UK restaurant operators are looking to expand their reach and serve new audiences by debuting concepts a step above or a step below their original brands’ service style. Building new concepts from a successful brand always presents risks, including a loss of operational focus and a harmful diversion of resources from the original brand. But in a highly competitive foodservice environment, identifying opportunities to meet the needs of untapped audiences and deliver new ways for loyal customers to access a brand can be a powerful weapon against stagnation and complacency. Indeed, development of new concepts can spark innovation that serves to propel legacy brands forward, too.”

McDonald’s trials 60-second drive-thru delivery guarantee: McDonald’s is trialing a 60-second drive-thru delivery guarantee at selected sites in Florida. According to the Miami Herald, the guarantee states that guests will receive a coupon for a complimentary lunch during their next visit if their meal isn’t ready before the one minute. The drive-thru experiment will run weekdays until 29 August. McDonald’s recently created a ‘learning lab’ on the West Coast of the States to better understand what consumers want. One of the discoveries made was that customers who ate fast-food during lunch wanted their meal served very quickly.

Savills – vacancy rates in the West End have returned to 2007 levels: Agent Savills, which has reported its UK commercial transaction fee income grew 30% to £30.3m (H1 2013: £23.3m) in the half-year to 30 June, has reported vacancy rates have returned to 2007 levels. The company stated: “Central London investment and leasing markets remained strong with period on period revenue growth of 58% and UK regional recovery resulted in regional investment and leasing growth of 38%. In the City of London leasing market, take up increased by 15% over the previous year, with significant demand in place for the second half of 2014. This, together with relatively little new supply in the remainder of the year, points to continued recovery in rents further underpinning the investment markets. In the West End, continued high levels of take up have reduced the vacancy rate to 2007 levels. Outside London, recovery is apparent across the principal markets and the positive outlook for rents, against the backdrop of limited new development, has further supported regional investment markets.”

Company News:

3Sixty Restaurants secures first pub: 3Sixty Restaurants, the company behind the Ego and Rocket brands that is led by James Horler and backed by Luke Johnson, has secured the first pub for its Ego brand. The Holly Bush in Stockton Brook has been acquired by 3Sixty for a new Ego and will open in late September after a significant refurbishment. The site will comprise of a bar, a restaurant with 120 covers, and substantial outside seating areas. This will bring the total number of Ego sites to nine and comes shortly after the group announced a new acquisition for its Rocket brand with a site in Holborn. It now has 14 restaurants in total. Chief executive James Horler said: “This acquisition is very exciting for our company as we believe the food offering within Ego is ahead of our competitors and putting it into a pub environment will allow us the opportunity to deliver a great food-led brand with local community appeal, which combined, will deliver a successful business proposition. We have 35,000 Twitter followers, 67,000 Club members, a very strong balance sheet and are delivering strong like-for-like sales, so it appeared a sensible opportunity for the Ego brand.”

Yummy Pub Company founders invest in Gentleman Barista coffee company: Yummy Pub Company founders Tim Foster and Anthony Pender have invested in a new coffee company called Gentleman Baristas, led by Henry Ayres and Edward Parkes. The first opening will be in Union Street, Borough, occupying the original coffee confederation building. Founder Tim Foster told Propel: “We have all the old plaques with the high commissioners, which will be displayed on the walls. The next site is already agreed and we plan for six or seven sites in the next 18 months with an army of ‘Gentleman Baristas’, which we have been recruiting within Yummy already. We’re going on the road as well, with three festival sites agreed for 2015, plenty more to follow after this year’s events, plus some pop-ups and 20 wholesale customers already secured, including some big names. Coffee will be exceptional, people better.” In his blog, Foster added: “We invest in people, we’ve written a lot about that and show it everyday in our business, but for the first time this week, we’ve put our money where our mouth is and invested cold hard cash into a new business, a business not run by us, but by Henry and Ed.”

Mobile home tycoon buys steak chain with a view to national roll-out: Mobile home tycoon Alfie Best has bought the three-strong Essex-based Rare Cow steak chain with a view to a national roll-out. Best has acquired venues in Jackson’s Lane, Billericay, Chequers Road, Writtle and High Road, Earls Colne from founder Richard Lester. Best told The Essex Echo: “I really enjoyed the steak at the Billericay outlet and just got chatting with Richard Lester, the owner. It turned out he was looking to move on to other things so I’ve jumped in quickly.” Rare Cow was launched by Lester in April 2013 and specialises in high quality steaks from more unusual breeds of cow. It won Essex Restaurant of the Year last year. Lester said: “Alfie really liked the restaurant so decided he wanted to invest. He thinks he could make it a national chain. Alfie has big plans for expansion and he is the man to take the brand forward.” The chain is popular with the Only Way is Essex actors and actresses Ricky Rayment, Jessica Wright and Mario Falcone. Best is likely to keep the Burger Challenge where anyone can attempt to eat a two kilo steak and, if successful within a certain time, do not have to pay the £99 cost. Best is chairman of Wyldecrest Parks, valued at around £100 million.

Music retailer lines up 7,000 square foot ‘hybrid’ site in Nottingham: Propel sources report an unnamed but well-known music retailer has exchanged contracts on a 7,000 square foot site next to the Revolution venue in Nottingham’s Broad Street to launch a hybrid offer. The site has planning and licensing for A3/A4 and the music retailer is intending to have live bands and a casual hospitality offering alongside music sales. The site is thought to have been let by Bruton Knowles.

Soho House opens two UK-exported restaurant brands to the public in Chicago today: Soho House will open two ground-floor restaurants, both brands exported from the UK, to the public today, contained within its new 108,000 square foot Chicago outlet, opening itself on Monday. Chicken Shop, opening for dinner on Friday and brunch on Sunday, serves chicken – the free-range air-chilled birds are cooked on a rotisserie and served whole, halved, or quartered. Pizza East will serve ciabatta-style pies cooked in wood-fuelled ovens and also has patio seating. Both restaurants are walk-in only.

Bowling alley entrepreneur to expand leisure interests open first pub: Bowling ally entrepreneur Tim Wilks is expanding with the opening of his first pub, The Fox Hole, in Piercebridge, near Darlington. It is expected to create 15 full and part-time roles, and will be on the site of the former Carlbury Arms. Wilks will partner chef Ellie Richmond and bar manager Jack Bowles, who met while working under Masterchef’s John Torode in London. The pub is being given a £250,000 refurbishment and will open later this summer. Wilks, who opened Newcastle bowling business Lane7 last year, told The Northern Echo: “Ellie and Jack are two people I’ve known for some time. Their knowledge, skills and unnerving commitment to great service impress me and their plans to run their own pub and dining operation matched our eagerness to expand our own leisure operations.” Wilks’ Lane7 venture opened last year in St James’ Boulevard after a £700,000 investment, creating about 30 jobs, and features walnut-finished bowling lanes and 1950s style US ball returns, as well as pool tables and a karaoke booth. He said at the time: “We’ve been brainwashed for the past 20 years into thinking bowling is about plastic seats and plastic hot dogs in dreary retail parks, but I want to bring the glamour back.”

Luminar to invest £3.3m to move to more than 50% of estate invested: The UK’s largest nightclub operator The Luminar Group has unveiled a £3.3 million summer refurbishment programme across a clutch of UK-wide nightclubs that will create circa 100 new jobs. Over the next three months, the company will make significant investment in launching two new nightclubs in Wales, Pryzm Cardiff £800,000) and Oceana in Swansea, which will be renamed (£1.2m), together with refurbishments of Cameo, Guildford (£300,000), Squires, Preston (£250,000), Air & Breathe, Dartford (£150,000), Liquid, Hanley (£300,000), a new venue at Cameo, Bournemouth, Vinyl (300,000), and a further three investments planned before year-end. Pryzm, Cardiff will open on 12 September with Swansea scheduled for early October. Both venues will feature the very latest light and sound technology, opulent interiors, table service and VIP booth seating. Cameo Guildford will have a total refurbishment to appeal to a slightly older, more up-market customer whilst Bournemouth Vinyl will be a stylish retro-themed bar. Luminar chief financial officer Russell Margerrison said: “Customers are consistently demanding more from their late night experiences. The Luminar estate had been under-invested for many years and refurbishing our venues is one of our key priorities. Once these sites are completed, over 50% of our estate will be invested in.” The majority of the refurbishment work will take place over the summer holiday break, so that clubs are ready for Fresher’s Week. A full entertainment programme is also planned to launch the clubs, including appearances from world class DJs. Last month, Luminar chief executive Peter Marks told the Propel Multi Club Conference that the 30% of his nightclubs that have seen investment are producing at extra £57,000 per week of takings, while the 70% of nightclubs so far uninvested are £100,000 a week down. “We are still going backwards a little bit but we have no debt and we are running the business to fix it,” said Marks. Luminar sales would start to rise in overall terms once 50% of the estate is refurbished, he added.

Second Le Monde Fish Bar and Grill opens in Birmingham: A second Le Monde Fish Bar and Grill has opened in Birmingham following a four-month, £400,000 refurbishment programme. The building programme involved a major conversion of offices above Café Rouge in Brindleyplace into a 160-seater restaurant and cocktail bar. There is also an extensive bar area with its own express menu and a private events area for meetings. It is the second Le Monde Fish Bar and Grill to open after the business was founded in Cardiff 30 years ago. The restaurant’s founding principle is to offer diners a wide range of fresh fish and steaks cooked to order and this is being retained at the Brindleyplace eatery. Shellfish, fish, poultry and steaks are all on display for customers to choose exactly what cut and weight they would like. There is also an open kitchen where customers can see their food being prepared. The new restaurant has created 25 full and part time jobs. Le Monde is part of Myton Restaurants – director Simon Howard said: “We are fortunate in that Le Monde has established a fantastic reputation over the years and is popular for its unique atmosphere and fantastic range of fish and meat. And many Birmingham people have visited us over the years when they have come to Cardiff for football, rugby, concerts or shopping.”

Chilango burrito bond raises £1,650,000 with one day left: Chilango’s burrito bond, raising money through crowd-sourcing website Crowdcube, had raised £1,653,000 by lunchtime yesterday, with little more than a day left. The money has been raised from a total of 535 investors. 

Belfast Telegraph – Beannchor loans for sale: The Belfast Telegraph has reported that Ulster Bank is offloading the debt of 15 pub sites owned highly rated Belfast pub, restaurant and hotel company Beannchor, led by Bill Wolsey, among a larger portfolio of property loans. Ulster Bank is also selling a portfolio of loans on eight hotels and two hostels north and south of the border under Project Nadal – usually loans which were entered into when property prices were at their highest. The portfolio has an estimated total worth of €200m (£159m) and could be sold to a single owner, such as an international fund, or broken up and sold to several buyers. Wolsey has built up an estate of more than 50 pubs, restaurants and hotels. The Belfast Telegraph estimates loans on the Beannchor sites total at least £25m.

Banks extend Malmaison and Hotel du Vin debt facilities to allow expansion: RBS, Lloyds Banking Group and Wells Fargo has refinanced and extended existing senior debt facilities to Malmaison and Hotel du Vin. The facilities will support the development and growth of the company’s hotel portfolio. Gary Davis, chief executive, Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, said: “We are delighted to have such great banking partners and this new facility reflects how successfully our business has performed over the last two years and supports our intention to grow the two leading lifestyle hotel brands in the UK.” Neil Parry, head of consumer industries RBS, added: “The refinance package reflects our unrivalled ability to draw on debt structuring and UK hotels sector experience. We look forward to working closely with Malmaison and Hotel du Vin’s experienced management team and we are delighted to be able to support the growth of one of the UK’s most exciting hotel brands.”

Douglas Jack reiterates 125p Price Target for Enterprise: Numis Securities leisure analyst has reiterated his ‘Hold’ recommendation, with 125p Price Target on Enterprise in shares after yesterday’s trading update. He said: “The 3Q14 IMS shows that the company benefited from the World Cup and a better start to summer. Enterprise is making progress in many areas, but beer volumes are continuing to fall sharply in the wet-led pub segment and weather-comps in Quarter Four 2014 are tough. There is still much to be done to turn the business around and we remain cautious. The World Cup and agreeable weather will have both been supportive to trading in the period. However, as we expected, there has been no growth in the first five weeks of Quarter Four 2014 as trading has come up against tougher comps. Management describes itself as “comfortable with our full year expectations”. Management also confirmed that the business is on track with its asset disposal programme. 129 pubs were sold for £42m in H1, with over 200 pubs expected to be sold this year, for a targeted £70m of proceeds. We forecast a 5% reduction in net debt this year versus a 3% decline in Ebitda, enabling net debt/Ebitda to start falling (by 0.2x) from 8.1x. Bank debt, at £76m, should be paid off over the next two years. Although debt is starting to fall more quickly than Ebitda, wet-led market trends, political risk and low tenanted portfolio disposal multiples (6-7x EV/Ebitda) justify caution, in our view. We are reiterating our ‘Hold’ rating and 125p target price.”

Agent Christie + Co markets failed ACV pub: Agent Christie + Co is marketing a pub in the affluent village of Pembury near Tunbridge Wells, that was the subject of a failed Asset of Community Value (ACV) bid. The agent stated: “It is considered suitable for re-opening as a pub or could possibly be converted into an alternative commercial use, or example as a shop or restaurant, and maybe even for conversion to a large single house or re-development of the whole site, subject to planning consent being obtained.” The asking price for the property is £345,000 + VAT and best and final offers are invited by Friday 22 August.

Amazing Leisure venues in South Shields closed: Amazing Leisure venues in South Shields have been closed by bailiffs. A knock-on effect has been suffered by Stephen Sullivan and Gavin Mann, who run Wicked nightclub, in Ocean Road, on a sub-let from Amazing Leisure. Amazing Leisure also owns The Point, in Sunderland, which has also been shut down.

Bloomberg – Itsu talking to French partner, eyes New York and California: Itsu, led by Pret a Manger founder Julian Metcalfe, plans to enter New York City and California markets, possibly starting as early as 2016, Bloomberg has reported. The company previously opened a store at the World Financial Center in Manhattan in December 2006 in a joint venture that went wrong. “I chose the wrong partner,” Metcalfe told Bloomberg. Comparing his brand to Pret A Manger, he added: “Itsu is very different because it has more hot food. It’s freshly made, which is very important, particularly in New York, where the weather can get chilly. It’s also more expensive. It’s £2 more but for that £2 I’ll give you some really, really yummy stuff. I will also serve you within 60 seconds.” Metcalfe said it costs about £550,000 to open each site and a successful store is one with more than £1m a year in sales. Metcalfe told Bloomberg he is talking to a potential partner in France but he won’t consider turning Itsu into a franchise operation. “Something as complex and as fragile at Itsu can’t work that well with people who are primarily driven by ensuring a good income stream. It’s too fragile. We have to harness the passion and the pride of the management and the employees. Franchising tends to be a bit more about control and money and less about the product and the passion.”

Tesco to trial customer tasting notes: Tesco is to offer members of its online wine community the chance to devise tasting notes for 100 of the retailer’s wines, in an effort to make its wine range more accessible, Decanter magazine has reported. The magazine stated that Tesco plans to hold a tasting of its Finest range later this month. Guests, who are set to include members of the retailer’s online wine community, as well as bloggers, will be asked to supply their own descriptions of the 100 wines on show. The move is evidence of the UK’s biggest retailers attempting to demystify wine for their shoppers. Alison Purdie, marketing manager at Tesco’s Wines by the Case online arm, said: “The idea behind the ‘wine words’ tasting is to generate more everyday vocabulary that we can use when communicating with our customers about wine.”

Former Whitbread manager opens world-wine brand: Former Whitbread manager Louise Hawkins has opened a world-wine brand called The Library with her sister, Louise, a former accountant, in Bristol’s Cheltenham Road. Louise Hawkins told South West Business: “We both have a huge passion for wine and delivering excellent customer service. We believe that Bristol needs a bar which provides a wide selection of wines from around the world alongside knowledgeable staff who can help customers to test their taste buds and provide an education in wine – hence our name, The Library. Our main feature will be our wine flights which will enable customers to enjoy a glass of what they know and be complemented by varietals [a single grape variety wine] that can expand their wine database.”

Robinsons re-opens Foundry in Anglesey with pizza and barbecue offer: Stockport-based Robinsons Brewery has re-opened The Foundry Vaults pub in Llangefni, Anglesey, with licensee Derek McKeon. The once restrictive lobby has now been completely removed to reveal the airy vaulted ceiling on entrance. The rear courtyard has also been brought to life with festoon lighting and box hedge plants, creating a sun trap during the summer. “One of the biggest changes is the movement of the bar towards the kitchen,” said designer Glenn Doyle. “Derek felt very passionate about creating a food menu for the Foundry Vaults and the movement of the bar was a necessity in accomplishing this.” Said McKeon: “I always felt that the one thing that would complete the Foundry Vaults was an excellent food menu. We can now do this and will be offering a varied menu of pizzas, traditional Welsh cuisine and mouth-watering modern American BBQ favourites. There really is something for everyone!” 

Euro Garages plans £1.5m Cockermouth opening with Subway and Starbucks: Plans for a £1.5 million Euro Garages service station in Cockermouth which could create up to 60 jobs are on course to be approved despite fears it could adversely hit other businesses and threaten red squirrel numbers. Planning officers at Allerdale Council are recommending that Euro Garages’s proposals be backed by members of the development panel when they meet in Workington on Tuesday. Euro Garages wants to knock down the Oakhurst Service Station on the outskirts of the town and replace it with a new forecourt, pumps, underground tanks and a convenience store complete with a Subway sandwich shop, an ATM, a Starbucks, three car washes and parking.

Whitbread’s Beefeater brand launches Hungry Games promotion: Whitbread’s Beefeater brand has launched The Hungry Games promotion with Vernon Kay. The games themselves will be a family quiz, with the winning families taking part in a live game show, hosted by Kay, for the chance to win a caravan holiday worth up to £5,000. Sarah Tinsley, head of marketing at Beefeater, said: “Vernon has excelled himself again as our Boss of Beef. We’ve got some amazing quiz packs on site and it’s the ideal way to spend time with the family, play some games and have good quality fun. Plus, the game show means you get the chance to go home with great prizes – a wonderful way to spend the summer.” Families who would like the chance to participate in the live final on 6 September can enter in Beefeater restaurants across the nation by completing the activity packs on site and placing their entries in the ballot box.

Stonegate Pub Company to rebrand Litten Tree in Brentwood: Stonegate Pub Company will rebrand one of its few remaining Litten Tree sites this month. The brand was originated by SFI Group and there are currently five left in the estate. The site in Brentwood High Street is scheduled to close on 26 August and re-open again on 11 September within the Classic Inns segment. A message posted on the pub’s Twitter account was updated on Friday with a tweet reading: “The doors of the Litten Tree will be closing for the refurb very shortly. So exciting, a great new pub will rise from the ashes.”

Collies International – ‘hotels in Wales are offering much better value’: Hotels in Wales are offering better value to potential owners as an alternative to the higher prices on the other side of the Severn Bridge. That’s according to hospitality sector specialist Peter Brunt from Colliers International who has just sold the Old Cross Hotel in Wales’ smallest city of St David’s. The three star hotel – situated opposite the famous cross in the tourist hotspot – was sold off an asking price of £750,000 freehold. Ideal for exploring the Pembrokeshire coastline, the Old Cross last changed hands in 2002. Brunt said: “There was considerable competition to purchase the hotel with its prime position in the heart of the city. The hotel has been snapped up by experienced regional operators.” Brunt added the Old Cross was typical of the quality on the market across the Principality. “Prospective buyers are beginning to appreciate the value available in Wales. There has been a noticeable increase in viewing activity for hotels across the country, including the Elan Valley Hotel in mid Wales, the Penrallt hotel and self-catering complex near Aberporth – on the market at £1.5m and the 18-bedroom Brynafon Hotel at Rhayader which also includes lovely owner’s accommodation in the asking price of just £395,000.” He added: “There is no doubt that in the depth of recession the hotel market in Wales was in poor shape because buyers were cautious.” 

Cafe and restaurant plan for Carlisle takes step forward: A cafe and restaurant development planned for a well-known Carlisle building has moved a step closer to reality. Agents for the former Hoopers department store, on Castle Street, have been in talks with a number of restaurant chains. They have now secured planning permission to transform the ground floor of the building – which has stood empty for more than a year – into three separate units. It is hoped a dining complex will give new appeal to Carlisle’s historic quarter, after struggling to market the building for retail.

SSP reports 3.3% increase in like-for-likes: Travel hub foodservice specialist SSP has reported a 3.5% increase in sales for the period from 1 April 2014 to 30 June 2014 on a constant currency basis, with like-for-like sales growth of 3.3%, compared with the same period last year. At actual currency rates, given the strengthening of Sterling in this period, total group sales decreased by 1.4% year-on-year. Like-for-like sales growth continued to benefit from strong performances in the UK, North America and Asia Pacific regions, with more challenging trading, as expected, in Continental Europe, most notably in France. During the period, the Group opened its first outlets in Qatar as part of a contract to operate 11 food and beverage outlets at the new Hamad International Airport in Doha. The Group also recently won a number of new contracts, including a £135m seven-year contract at London Stansted Airport, which includes an innovative new bakery concept in partnership with UK chef James Martin, and an $80m ten year contract at Sacramento Airport. Chief executive Kate Swann said: “I am pleased to announce our first IMS as a listed company. During the period, we saw a strong performance for the Group, particularly in the UK, North America and Asia Pacific. We continue to be confident in the outlook for the business.”

British Land – leisure makes up 21% of Old Market Shopping Centre in Hereford: British Land has reported leisure operators make up 21% of its £90m Old Market shopping centre in Hereford. The developer stated: “Leisure accounts for 21% of the scheme (by area), creating an evening economy and extending the centre’s trading hours. The line-up includes a six-screen Odeon cinema, the city’s first multi-screen cinema, as well as Chimichanga, Costa, Frankie & Benny’s, Miller & Carter and My Coffee. The 310,000 sq ft Old Market shopping centre opened on 1 May 2014 and has welcomed more than 1.6 million visitors to date. With the last three remaining units at the scheme now under offer, the scheme is now fully let and under offer. Wagamama (3,000 sq ft, 20 years), Paperchase (1,800 sq ft, ten years), Vodafone (1,500 sq ft, ten years) and local independent My Coffee Corner (450 sq ft, 5 years) have also recently opened new stores.” Claire Barber, head of shopping centre asset management for British Land, said: “Old Market is a fantastic scheme delivering an impressive line-up of some of the best brands in the UK and we are delighted to further strengthen this with the addition of River Island and Joules. It is testament to the design, quality and location of the scheme that so many brands have chosen Old Market for their first stores in Hereford.”

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